New political cycle: the opposition is on its own trail
The inability to solve its main strategic task (the regime change) inflicts competition among the opposition forces or forces them to act in collective self-defense. All tactics proposed by the opposition to counteract Lukashenko have already been proved unsuccessful before and will be successfully neutralized by the authorities in the future.
In the course of the week, various political forces in Belarus made a number of statements and decisions about their future political activities.
On November 8th, the United Civil Party Political Council called for the selection of a single opposition candidate via primaries. Before the year-end the party intends to consult with 13 political structures, which were to take part in the primaries in 2009, as well as with new political actors. Earlier, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus also expressed the desire to enter presidential race in 2015 and invited all interested and “weigh” political organizations in the country to determine their real impact in a joint mass action not later than autumn 2013. Moreover, the majority of the opposition political actors have already announced their plans to take part in the next presidential campaign.
As noted earlier, the actions of the Belarusian “conventional” and “non-conventional” (LDPB) opposition do not go beyond the electoral cycle and suggest that Lukashenko’s regime – due to efforts of his political opponents – will be forced to hold free and fair elections in compliance with international standards, and the opposition will win. At the same time, the authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they are ready to play only by their own rules. Therefore, the repetition by the opposition of their previous electoral tactics related to building coalitions or determining a single candidate is unlikely to succeed. Another contributing factor to this is the increased competition among various oppositional political players after the last parliamentary elections in September.
At the same time, while abroad, the opposition demonstrates a desire to freeze the status quo and to protect themselves from “government in exile” project, which would threaten the existing foreign support to the opposition. Therefore, despite the mutual differences, on November 3rd, in Vilnius some opposition organizations signed a memorandum on joint activities of the Belarusian opposition and Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic. The document recognizes the status of the BNR Rada as a non-partisan, overarching-political body of the Belarusian statehood until the democratic government is elected in Belarus. De facto, this memorandum guarantees the immutability of the BNR’s foreign authority from third parties’ attacks. In particular, previously doubts about the legitimacy of the Rada had been expressed by Borodach, Head of the newly founded Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board.
The memorandum was signed by the main Belarusian opposition forces: United Civil Party (A. Dobrowolski), “Young Front” (Nikolai Demidenko), Rada of the Belarusian intelligentsia (Kolosov), “Nash Dom” campaign (Olga Karatch), “For Freedom” movement (Aliaksandr Milinkevich), Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada (Stanislav Shushkevich), BPF (Aliaksey Yanukevich), Conservative-Christian Democracy Party BPF (Zianon Paznyak), organizing committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Organizing Committee of the National Revival Board (Vladimir Borodach), Organizing Committee of “Belaruski Rukh” (Vintsuk Vyachorka) and Rada BNR (Ivonka Survilla).
In the short term (one-two years) the most likely scenario for the Belarusian opposition will be the continuation of competition for the right to lead the “single candidate” project, while trying to demonstrate the unity of views and tactics abroad. It should be anticipated, if the socio-economic situation in the country deteriorates, the opposition will not go beyond the electoral cycle, and will continue preparations for the presidential election, as they consider this project a priority.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.